John McCain appointed little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice presidential running mate on Friday in a startling selection on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
In an announcement, the campaign said that Palin, who has been governor less than two years, "has the record of reform and bipartisanship that others can only speak of. Her experience in shaking up the status quo is exactly what is needed in Washington today."
During a rally held in Dayton, Ohio, McCain announced before about 15,000 supporters that Palin is "exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second." Participants in the rally welcomed the surprise pick with cheers and flags.
"She's got the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today," McCain said.
Palin told the crowd, "To have been chosen brings a great challenge. I know that it will demand the best that I have to give and I promise nothing less."
Two senior campaign officials disclosed Mccain's decision a few hours before the Republican presidential nominee-to-be and his newly-minted running mate appeared at a rally in swing-state Ohio.
Palin, like McCain, is a conservative with a maverick streak who has shown a willingness to clash with others in her own party. She is a self-styled hockey mom and political reformer who has been governor of her state less than two years. Her selection shocked numerous Republican officials.
In making his pick, Mccain passed over several more prominent prospects who had figured in speculation for months — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge among them.
At 44, Palin is a generation younger that Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, who is Barack Obama's running mate on the Democratic ticket.
She is three years Obama's junior, as well — and McCain has made much in recent weeks of Obama's relative lack of experience in foreign policy and defense matters.
Palin flew overnight to an airport in Ohio near Dayton, and even as she awaited her formal introduction, some aides said they had believed she was at home in Alaska.
'Coldest state, hottest governor'
With ethics the centerpiece of her campaign, Palin defeated incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski, who served 22 years in the US Senate before winning the governor's seat in 2002.
She also successfully took on the oil industry, leading to a tax increase on oil company profits that now has the state's treasury swelling.
Typically seen walking the Capitol halls in black or red power suits while reading text messages on Blackberry screens in each hand, Palin made a recent appearance in Vogue, the fashion magazine.
And she oversees a state that's hardly shy about admiring her swept-back hair and celebrated smile. Bumper stickers and blogs have proclaimed Alaska and Palin: "Coldest State, Hottest Governor."
Palin is an occasional commercial fisherwoman, and lives in Wasilla with her husband, Todd, a blue-collar North Slope oil worker. They have five children, the latest of whom was born with Down syndrome.
Her previous political experience consists of terms as Wasilla's mayor and councilwoman and a stint as head of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.